Ergonomics is the study of people's efficiency in their working environment and the effect it has on their physical well being. Most people do not realize how their office set up, at home or in the office, can harm their health. The new catch phrase, sitting is the new smoking, truly says it all. If you have a desk job and sit up to 8 or more hours in a day the adverse effects of poor equipment can be significant on your health.
Chairs are the foundation to good ergonomics.
If the chair isn't right the rest of the work station won't work. This applies to children who are schooling from home as well as adults who are working from home with a less than optimal environment. There are many health impacts of prolonged sitting including impacts on longevity, it can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and an elevated cancer risk. People report digestive issues, weight gain, and musculoskeletal strain on necks, back, shoulders and arms.
By reducing stimulation of the heart we can reduce life expectancy. Poor sitting can slow digestion and decrease blood flow throughout the pelvis and legs which can lead to inflammation and pain. Prolonged standing is not the answer either.
Prolonged sitting, or standing, can be considered cumulative trauma and can actually lead to a major loss of work productivity.
Some simple steps to take today can change how your body feels at the end of your work day. Adjust the chair to have good alignment with the keyboard and mouse. You want to have a neutral seated posture. Adjust the height of your desk if possible and the monitor so that you are not forced to look down for hours on end. You want your feet on the floor, a 90 degree angle at the knee and hip as well as at the elbow for optimal positioning. There are some good YouTube videos to assist you with your own assessment of the work station you have currently.
Sitting leads to muscular inactivity so brief periods of moving from sit to standing throughout your day will help. Postural fatigue leads to poor spinal alignment and a loss of the lumbar (low back) natural curve. This in turn will lead to poor alignment throughout the rest of the spine and into the neck. Posture is based on vision and reach. Have someone take a photo of you, from the side, so you can see what you look like in your current home office setting. If you have an HR department, request an evaluation to have help in making adjustments for improved health and function. If you don't have an HR department you can improve your home office by starting with a proper chair that has adjustability to fit your body. Doing some research through the ANSI and BIFMA guidelines websites will help you rank chairs at different price points. Chairs with good adjustability can be expensive but will, in the long run, be worth the cost in avoiding many of the health care concerns that we see in our clinic every day.
A few simple things you can do throughout your work day can make a big difference today.
Stand up, sit down, take a 5 minute walk, dance through one song or do some simple stretches for 3 minutes all can help you feel better by the end of the day but these need to be done often. It is recommended not to sit for more than one hour at a time; even less if you already have neck, back or pelvic pain.
By making some changes, today, you will feel better, have less fatigue, and ward off future musculoskeletal problems that can plague you for the rest of your working life. But, you can change your future health by making some simple adjustments today and consider an investment in a good chair. Read the comments and reviews for chairs before buying. You can also check with consumer affairs for recall notices on certain products. The bottom line is that you can actually change your future health and well being with a proper desk set up, starting with the chair.
Stand up, sit down, move around for good health!